Mornings are often full of hope as many entrepreneurs start their work day feeling motivated to get more done, avoid distractions, stay organized and tackle long-term projects.
Despite such good intentions, it’s easy to find ourselves mired in other issues: a morning spent dealing with administrative tasks, followed by an afternoon of meetings. Before you know it, there are over 200 unanswered emails in your inbox, you scratched nothing off your “to do” list and the day is almost over. You may leave work feeling deflated and exhausted as you face another week of late nights playing catch up.
In a 2016 Small Business and Independence survey by the Endurance International Group, 70% of entrepreneurs said owning a small business is the best job they’ve ever had. It will likely come as no surprise that nearly the same number (69%) said owning a small business is a full-time-or-more job, with 14% saying they work 24/7.
While leading a small business can be very rewarding, entrepreneurs should consider ways to be more productive and remain mindful of how they schedule their days to avoid burnout and keep their small business dreams from turning into nightmares. Here are five tips for making every workday effective and productive.
1) The rule of 3
In his book Getting Results the Agile Way, J.D. Meier explains that, at the beginning of every day, you should mentally fast-forward to the end of the day. Ask yourself: “When the day is over, what are three things I want to have accomplished?” When you start to get pulled away to other tasks, consult this list. If you stay on track, you’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day.
2) No morning meetings
Necessary as they are, few people will argue that meetings don’t affect productivity. If you can eliminate morning meetings, you will be armed to head into the second half of your day with a smaller list of tasks and a longer list of accomplishments. Plus, if you’re a meeting-hater, mornings won’t seem as dreadful. If you must hold a morning meeting, at least try to keep them short, keep the focus of the meeting on a major priority for that day, and be sure that you are making the best use of everyone’s time. Here are some more tips for holding productive meetings. By keeping mornings meeting-free, you aren’t starting your week off bogged down in issues that scuttle your priorities before you have even finished your first cup of coffee.
3) Avoid technology traps
While technology is now a vital part of running a business, it can also be one of the reasons you’re not getting key stuff done. However, the same technology that can impede productivity can also help curb distractions. Apps like RescueTime can ensure that you and your team are not wasting time surfing the internet, checking Facebook or watching funny animal videos. In addition, try setting up an auto-response email that informs others you will be checking email later in the day, or consider an email plug-in like Boomerang that allows you to schedule an email to be sent later.
4) Consider a virtual assistant
While the days of full-time, in-office assistants who take dictation and get coffee are long gone, having help with tactical items, such as making travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, sending contracts and responding to routine emails, can help you focus on creating and implementing business strategy, ensuring quality output from your company and managing your team.
You might believe you can’t afford an assistant but qualified virtual assistants can cost as little as $20 an hour, which may be a bargain if you believe your time spent on building your business is worth more than that amount. To further save money, try hiring a part-time or temp assistant until you can gauge how much they help ease your workload.
5) Take breaks
Breaks have been proven to advance health, restore motivation, improve productivity, increase creativity and facilitate learning—all vital attributes for running a business. However, the Hartman Group found that some 62% of professionals frequently eat lunch alone at their desks while taking care of work tasks. Furthermore, researchers at MIT found that workplace conversations can increase productivity and help you cope with the demands of your job.
It’s time to embrace the total potential of each workday and the opportunities that lie ahead of us to make each day great.
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